Skimo has been growing in the States more and more, and now, with it being an Olympic sport, it certainly won't be slowing down. For some of us, though, the racing aspect and the limited uses of a skimo race set up isn't very appealing. So where do you fall if you still want to move quickly and efficiently but have no intention of racing?
That is where "Freemo" comes into play. Now, as much as I would love to say we came up with this name, we are going to have to give credit to our friends over at WNDR Alpine. The "Freemo" category for us is that next step up in weight from true Skimo gear. This bump up in weight for skis gives you a bit more durability, more variety in design, better skiing performance in variable conditions. As for the boots, the weight gain gives you similar advantages, but one of the biggest advantages is the ability to make more shell modifications for funky feet. For bindings at the 150-250 gram mark, these are some of the more simplistic and easy to use bindings on the market.
Now I can hear some of you saying "But I only go up for the down and I ski hard" or "I don't care about the weight. I'm not racing." Although these are valid points, let me give you a couple things to think about. For the folks that want to ski hard, I get it BUT what about the times of year where there really isn't "hard" skiing to be had? For the last few years, the "hard" skiing hasn't really opened up until mid January. So, for those early season Nosedive and Perry laps, why not make it hard by kicking your but into shape for the up and making that groomer a bit more challenging on the way down. Also, wouldn't it be pretty cool if you could lay some trenches down nosedive with a 1,000 gram ski?
As for the non-racers, neither am I, and honestly, most people aren't. You don't have to want to race or even go fast to reap the benefits of going uphill with ease. Being able to get to the top of your line and not feel absolutely gassed and still feeling good enough to go for another lap is a pretty great feeling. So, no you might not be going to the Bolton Skimo races and trying to beat Denis (you probably wont) but I think we all like to try and improve ourselves and maybe get a little faster.
The first time I used a Freemo style set up I was blown away how much better I felt on the up. My gate was so much more natural and felt more like hiking than lugging ankle weights up the hill. I didn't have to mess around with heel risers nearly as much, since now I had a huge range of motion in my boots. Now I'm not going to lie the downhill took a second to get used to. To be honest, I enjoyed that part though. It gave me a new perspective on these groomers that I had skied plenty of times. The set-up challenged my technique and made me focus a bit more. It was also fun to try and find the limits of speed, turn shape, and carving ability.
I know a lot of you are probably bikers. I am sure some of you probably have a mountain bike and a gravel bike as well. I like to think of your mountain bike being your daily driver ski set up and your gravel bike being your Freemo set up. Both are incredibly fun tools and both can take you to different places. Your mountain bike allows you to try and hit that big scary feature you have been eyeing for years and your gravel bike allows you to look at that big hill in front of you and think "No problem". Clearly, I have fallen in love with this category, so please feel free to come share opinions, ask questions, or just talk about skiing uphill.